SKOWHEGAN — The area underground pingpong circuit is set to go public Sunday with a tournament and block party sponsored by a downtown revitalization group. 

“The block party is an annual event, but this year we’re making it a pingpong tournament as well,” said Dugan Murphy, executive director of the nonprofit Main Street Skowhegan. “We’re expecting the core group to be people who are in the pingpong circuit and we’re extending it out to the general public as a fund raising event, so the more the merrier.”

Events at Maine Wood Heat on Northgate Industrial Park, off Route 150, are to include all-you-can-eat wood-fired pizza, beer and wine, soft drinks, music and pingpong play, beginning at 2:30 p.m.

Maine Wood Heat, founded by Cheryl and Albie Barden in the 1970s, started making wood-fired ovens with their son Scott in 2000. Those ovens will be used to make the pizza on Sunday and there will be tours of the plant and showroom, Murphy said.

The cost Sunday is $25 per person, which includes pingpong competition on two tables, one glass of wine or beer and pizza. Registration begins at 2 p.m. A handmade trophy will go to the winner.

For $15, visitors can have the pizza and beverages, but not the pingpong play. Prices are reduced for people under 21.

The pingpong idea came from Lisa Caswell, a member of the Main Street Board of Directors, whose partner, Scott Price, of Canaan, is active in Skowhegan area pingpong circles, according to Murphy.

Price, 55, a retired Waterville firefighter, said there is a core group of about 30 area men and women who meet to play pingpong. He said 10-15 people show up to play on a regular basis and competition can last five or six hours each time.

“We meet once a month, either at someone’s house or at Maine Wood Heat just to play pingpong and drink beer,” he said. “Before this there were no formal tournaments, just a get-together type of thing. It’s just a hobby thing that people grew up playing. We’re not really good enough to go on to the tournaments; it’s just fun.”

Murphy, who has been director of Main Street Skowhegan for six months, said fundraisers such as Sunday’s pizza and pingpong party are essential part of keeping the organization going.
 

Financing for the $76,000 annual operating budget comes from three general areas, he said. One third comes from organizational fundraising, events and grant writing and the other thirds come from business membership dues and  the town’s downtown tax increment financing district.

He said recent successes for the organization include raising money for the restoration of the iconic Skowhegan Indian sculpture near downtown. Of the $65,000 needed to complete the work, $63,000 has been raised so far, allowing the work to be put on a schedule for next spring.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367
[email protected]